A 25-year-old woman who delivered her son in a toilet and then wrapped him in a towel and tossed him from a second-floor window received a 12-year prison sentence Friday for concealment of a homicidal death.
Ciara Jackson of Centreville stood before St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic and twice uttered the word “guilty.”
She was charged in June with knowingly concealing a homicide by tossing her newborn son out a second-floor window into a brush pile.
Jackson also was charged with involuntary manslaughter. She was accused of delivering her child — listed in official reports as Baby Boy Jackson — into a toilet and allowing him to remain submerged before removing him. She did not seek medical care for the baby after he was born, according to authorities.
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Jackson pleaded guilty but mentally ill. A court-appointed psychologist had made a finding that Jackson suffers from mental illness.
When the judge asked Jackson whether she understood the charges, Jackson said she did.
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said afterward, “This case is sadness upon sadness. But, there is hope because of those who took time to care. This case was fraught with tremendous forensic, medical and legal challenges. But, in the end, we felt we had to move forward because this baby’s life mattered.”
This case is sadness upon sadness. But, there is hope because of those who took time to care. This case was fraught with tremendous forensic, medical and legal challenges.
Brendan Kelly, St. Clair County state’s attorney
The child was born and died in September 2013. The child was born at a home in East St. Louis where Jackson sometimes stayed.
Assistant State’s Attorney Jason Emmanuel told Baricevic that East St. Louis police were dispatched to a home on 23rd Street to investigate a report that a newborn baby had been left next to a residence.
When they arrived, they learned that EMS had been dispatched to assist Jackson. They learned, after they arrived, that she had delivered a baby and that child was left on the side of the residence.
When police searched the property surrounding the residence, they found the baby, wrapped in a towel, and concealed in a brush pile, Emmanuel said.
Jackson was arrested. When she was interviewed by East St. Louis Detective Darlene Diggs and Columbia Detective Karla Heine, who is part of the Child Death Review Task Force, Jackson said she didn’t want the baby. She said she wanted to have an abortion, but she was too far along when she realized she was pregnant, Emmanuel said.
Emmanuel told Baricevic that Jackson had told police that she thought about putting the baby boy up for adoption, and a neighbor offered to adopt the baby.
“The defendant smoked crack the night of the 26th and the early morning hours of the 27th. As the cramps and pain got worse during the afternoon of the 27th, she eventually made it upstairs to that second-floor bathroom where she delivered Baby Boy Jackson face-down into the water of the toilet,” Emmanuel told the judge. “She explained that she left him there like that for 15 minutes. She claimed that she never saw the baby move and that it was a miscarriage.”
Jackson also said, in the interview with the detectives, that “she was afraid if she took Baby Boy Jackson out of the water, she would have to move out and be homeless with the baby, but if the baby died, she could stay where she was and the baby wouldn’t have to suffer. She said she left the baby boy face-down in that toilet to die,” Emmanuel said.
She was afraid if she took Baby Boy Jackson out of the water, she would have to move out and be homeless with the baby, but if the baby died, she could stay where she was and the baby wouldn’t have to suffer. She said she left the baby boy face-down in that toilet to die.
Jason Emmanuel, assistant state’s attorney
After she removed the baby from the toilet, she grabbed a green and white towel and placed his body on it, wrapped him up and tossed him out of the window. She said she saw the baby bounce off the neighboring house and land in a pile of sticks, according to the prosecutor.
Emmanuel said Jackson later had intentions of going out to where she tossed the baby and burying him. “Later that night, after being told by her neighbor that she needed to seek medical attention, she called 911. She never sought medical attention for the baby,” Emmanuel said.
Dr. Raj Nanduri, a forensic pathologist, performed the autopsy, determining the cause of death was drowning. An additional forensic pathologist, Mary Case, concluded Baby Boy Jackson was a viable baby.
Daniel J. Cuneo, a clinical pathologist, evaluated Jackson. His report describes her as having bipolar disorder and drug and alcohol dependence.
Cuneo’s report says Jackson threatened suicide when she was 13 by drinking bleach. She has suffered depression and was raped at age 10 by a man she called her uncle. She learned later he wasn’t her biological uncle.
Her mother was mentally ill and a drug addict. Jackson was removed from her mother and first placed with her grandmother. When her grandmother could no longer handle her, she was placed in foster care at age 13. She also attempted suicide by slitting her wrists, trying to hang herself and trying to overdose, according to Cuneo’s report.
‘Our Guardian Angel’
Baby Boy Jackson may have died without a name, but Joe Hubbard, founder of Catholic Urban Charities, and Father Clyde Grogan, stood at his graveside and gave him one. There is a headstone at Mount Carmel Cemetery Grave 72 for the baby who died without a name. It was donated anonymously. It is inscribed: “’Jeremiah’ Jackson, September 28, 2013, Our Guardian Angel.”
Hubbard has been known to help with burials of people who have no family.
“It’s just out of justice,” Hubbard said. “It's the right thing to do ... taking care of the dead and making sure they have the proper burial.”
Hubbard and Grogan said the inspiration for the name came from the Bible.
“Prophet Jeremiah was truly a voice, but was not really appreciated by the people he was trying to save,” Grogan said. “So, I thought Baby Boy Jackson was from God too, and like Jeremiah, he was not appreciated.”
“Every one of us who attended the funeral...the four or five of us...had such heavy hearts,” Grogan said. “Life is a gift from God and is very sacred — even though the little guy was not treated so sacred. He went from the violence of his death to the merciful hands of a loving God.”
Grogan and Hubbard gave credit to Nash Funeral Home in East St. Louis. Both said Nash was instrumental in helping to give the child a proper burial..
Grogan also thanked the Mt. Carmel staff who led and directed the graveside event for Jeremiah.
Grogan said he prays for Jeremiah every time he goes to Mount Carmel Cemetery.
“I also pray for Baby Jeremiah’s mother,” the priest said.